Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bronze Age is over!

And here you all thought it ended around 600BC, if not earlier. Nah. The real completion occurred in June 2009, when I finished sewing the sleeve on this quilt and took some final pics (not that good - I am continually amazed at what inconsistent results I get despite using photofloods and a camera that is many megapixels smarter than I am). I'm calling it "Bronze Age Settlement With Artifacts."

Here's a closer look at some of the artifacts:

A hoard of silver coins, a Goddess figure, 2 plates - one terracotta, the other polychrome - reconstructed from potshards.

Another look at the polychrome plate, and two bronze spear heads. They've got a lovely greenish patina on them; too bad it didn't show up in the pictures.

A feast of anachronisms. The little fat Venus figure is Neolithic, but I like her so much that I decided this style lasted into the Bronze Age. See the patina on her? Then there's the ax head in the upper right, which came out looking more like iron than bronze; well, my husband says that some bronze age metal workers accidentally made tools and weapons that were a funny color and harder than they expected, due to "impurities" in the ore. Let's chalk this one up to impurities and not assume my people were so far ahead of their time that they had an iron forge in the woods.

And finally, a look at the outermost building, where the messy work was done, and where two bone implements for scraping leather hides were found, along with the remains of a terracotta plate. The wealth of this household (as evidenced by the silver hoard) probably didn't make it back to this outbuilding where the poorest farm laborers lived.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fearless Felter

I've quilted the Bronze Age quilt, I've bound it, I've made a bunch of itsy-bitsy "artifacts" with polymer clay and patinas, and now I'm sewing them on....and it doesn't look that much different from the last picture. I do plan to take a bunch of detail shots of the "artifacts" when that job is done.

But...I've got pictures today. Have I ever got pictures! I just finished editing some photos of my friend Vivian Mahlab's quilts. Vivian usually works on so big a scale that, not having the side of a barn to play around with, there's no way I can photograph her work. But when we went to Jane Dunnewold's workshop in January she brought along some old place mats which she dyed and screen-printed along with her Big Serious Fabric pieces.... and then she came over to my house and embellished them. Vivian will needle-felt anything to anything, and if the two materials don't cooperate, she'll gently urge them together with some teased-out silk fibers. She grabbed pieces apparently at random (I'm sure there's some plan, I just can't figure out what it is) out of the Silk Scraps Box, applied them to the place mats, then took them home and quilted them and had four totally stunning small quilts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Felt Solution

All the dithering about whether to use black cotton or black and white striped cotton on BronzeAge came to an end when it dawned on me that I could probably needlefelt black felt pieces to the background fabrics, and then they would be securely attached and there'd be no fraying and I wouldn't have to quilt over the edges to keep them in place, which I'd also been worrying about because black thread would show too much on the reddish background and red thread over black elements might look like a design element of its own instead of fading into the background as I wanted it to. I love this solution; it's elegant, in the way that a three-line, mind-illuminating mathematical proof is elegant.

Now all I have to do is find the black batting, pick a backing fabric, put the sandwich together and quilt it. (This is the stage where I wish the Quilt Elves would come in at night and finish the job.)

Oh - and binding. I think I'm going to use the black and white striped fabric for a binding.

And,possibly, artifacts. I'm thinking about adding some little wire coils and polymer clay "potsherds" and other doodads to the quilted surface, as if they were objects found on an archaeological dig.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Strong Women Day

Today, June 10th, has been declared Strong Women Day by the Quilt Mavericks - in honor of strong women everywhere in our lives and in history - the ones who got us where we are now, the ones we look up to for leadership, and the ones nobody knows about who are quietly calling up the strength to free themselves from bad situations and to define their own lives in the face of fierce opposition.

(I will demonstrate my own strength now by not whining about the fact that Esterita Austin had to cancel her trip to Texas. No workshop - at least not this year. Oh well, at least a lot of my crumpled hand-dyes have now been neatly pressed and folded.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

High contrast fabrics

Come Saturday, I'll be driving down to San Antonio to take an afternoon workshop with Esterita Austin, whose work I've admired for a long time. We're just going to make one 15" by 20" piece, so naturally I spent the whole morning selecting and pressing fabrics to take down. What the heck - it doesn't cost any more to drive down there with 60 pieces of fabric than with 6. She says to bring:

"fabric that is MULTI VALUE and MULTI COLOR in the same piece. Usually batiks, or the splotchy type of fabric (that looks like a painters wipe cloth) is best. PLEASE have very darks ranging through mediums to very lights in the same piece. Hand dyes are great if they have a FULL range of value in the piece. The batiks with a soft linear design may work well."

Here's some of what I'm taking (the fabrics are stacked, so there's more than shows in this snapshot). It was easy to collect fabric that looks like a painter's wipe cloth, because I always have some soda soaked pieces of fabric in the workroom to mop up dye spills, and when they become sufficiently colorful I rinse them out and add them to the stash. The rest was a bit trickier and made me realize how much midtones and blues dominate my stash.

We're also supposed to bring a 15" x 20" piece of cloth for a background, preferably something that suggests night sky or sunrise/sunset colors. I think I'm going to cut this slice out of a larger hand-dyed fabric.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Black and White and Grayscale

Well, the Katie Z's survived their night of carousing without having to pull out their picture ID's and without even getting all that drunk. I guess they're growing up.

Me, I'm being indecisive. While they were out drinking I cut out sample pieces of black and striped fabric and pinned them to the background fabrics. I like the striped better - it's more interesting - but the black clearly shows up better; it's really obvious when you change the picture to grayscale.

Now I'm thinking about using both fabrics; black for the rectangles, gray for circles and a long barrow indicating an earlier settlement. Feel uneasy about the compromise. I do have a tendency to make quilts that look good from a foot away and dissolve into a no-contrast blur from six feet away. Is using the striped fabric going to do that to this piece?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Darker, brighter...

Overpainting wet fabrics with highly diluted Setacolor Transparent Purple toned the bright orange down quite a lot, more than shows in this picture. After the paint dried I made rubbings with gold and copper Shiva oil sticks; those will have to air dry for several days before I heat set them and sew them together. That's ok since my brother-in-law and niece are coming for the weekend and I'm putting California Katie in the sewing room.

My niece is (California) Katie Zoraster because one of my daughters is (Texas) Katie Zoraster... my reasoning was that even if David and Cherie used the name first, Katherine is my absolute favorite girl's name and I was going to use it for my first daughter regardless, and anyway since they lived in California and we lived in Texas the existence of two Katie Zorasters shouldn't cause much confusion.

Ha. Now (California) Katie has plans to go bar-hopping with (Texas) Katie and Steve keeps snickering and saying he hopes they'll be carded, because he wants to know what will happen if two girls simultaneously pull out id's in the name of Katie Zoraster. I have a feeling that what will happen could involve BIL David and me driving down to the police station in the small hours of the morning to verify the girls' identities, so I kind of hope they don't get carded.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Overdyed fabrics

After a day of discharging and overdyeing those bright orange fabrics with screens and sponges, they're still too bright, but somewhat improved, and definitely more complex and interesting. Tomorrow I hope to hit them with fabric paints and oil markers - I don't think they'll absorb any more dye.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Selecting fabrics

So for once I was actually able to pull out the fabrics I wanted without throwing the entire contents of my stash all over the room. (Probably because I wanted to use hand-dyed fabrics for the background and my stash of those is getting dangerously low.) Actually these particular background fabrics aren't quite what I want...too bright, and not enough interesting texture...especially the bottom one, which is a tablecloth that I dyed in overly bright colors several years ago and never did anything about. So the next step is to take them into the workroom and go over them with some more layers of color and texture. That should make for an interesting few days.

I haven't decided whether to use the black pinstripe, the solid black, or both for the site plan figures. Will probably have to cut out some bits of both and pin them up against the background after I've worked those bright orange fabrics over for a while.
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